A Tea Party leader from Tennessee is urging conservatives to push back in the controversy over whether inflamed political rhetoric led to the shootings of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others in Arizona.
Judson Phillips, founder of Tea Party Nation, sent a memo to supporters calling the alleged gunman, Jared Loughner, a “liberal lunatic.”
"The hard left is going to try and silence the Tea Party movement by blaming us for this,” he wrote, saying President Bill Clinton used the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing to “blame conservative talk radio, especially Rush Limbaugh.”
Phillips said “the tactic worked then, backing conservatives off and possibly helping to ensure a second Clinton term.”
He added, “The left is coming and will hit us hard on this. We need to push back harder with the simple truth. The shooter was a liberal lunatic. Emphasis on both words.”
Sen. Lamar Alexander, meanwhile, declined in a television interview to associate divisive politics with the shootings. Asked to comment on CNN on Sunday, Alexander said: “Of course, we want civility instead of incivility, and of course we don’t want violence. But I think in all the talk about this, we have to be very careful about impugning the motives or actions of a deranged individual to any particular group of Americans who have their own political beliefs.”
Of the alleged gunman, Alexander added, “What we know about this individual is that he read Karl Marx, he read Hitler. We know he was burning the American flag. That’s not the profile of the typical Tea Party member if that’s the inference being made.
“I think obviously, we’re much better off in our country if we peaceably assembly, treat each other with respect, show courtesy and condemn people who go over the line and particularly those who do it violently as this individual did yesterday.”